WrestleMania XII, held March 31, 1996, is the first WrestleMania I remember watching. Sitting at home watching the show on pay-per-view, I witnessed “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels and Bret “The Hitman” Hart put on a 60-minute wrestling clinic in front of a crowd of more than 18,000 people at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California.

Millions watched around the world.

My eyes were glued to the television set as Michaels and Hart traded blow after blow, maneuver after maneuver. The match went beyond the 60-minute time limit, before Michaels finally landed his patented “Superkick” to pin Hart and achieve his boyhood dream of winning the World Wrestling Federation title.

Twenty-two years later, I’m sitting in a chair in Windham, at the home of my friend, Greg, eyes just as glued to the TV set for the same show I have long cherished.

To the non-initiated, WrestleMania is the premier show of World Wrestling Entertainment, which comes once a year, usually in April. It’s the Super Bowl of professional wrestling. It’s part theater, part rock concert, and the number of fans who enjoy it on an annual basis has grown from the thousands into the multi-millions after 34 years. It’s celebrated as if it were indeed the Super Bowl, with a week of fan-centered interactive events, called “Axxess,” and the annual WWE Hall of Fame ceremony.

I’ve witnessed countless memorable WrestleMania moments over the years. I witnessed “Stone Cold” Steve Austin beat Shawn Michaels for the title at WrestleMania XIV. I watched John Cena win his first world championship at WrestleMania XXI. I’ve seen careers of legends such as Michaels (WrestleMania XXVI) and Ric Flair (WrestleMania XXIV) come to an end. And, most importantly, I saw the end of The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania come to an end (WrestleMania XXX).

I’ve been lucky enough to attend a WrestleMania live. In 2011, I traveled to Atlanta to watch WrestleMania XXVII at the since-demolished Georgia Dome, with my buddy Stew. I cannot properly describe to you what it is like to see WrestleMania live, but I’ll do my best.

Imagine nearly 72,000 people — who love wrestling as much as you do — screaming their heads off for four hours. There’s hardly ever a letdown from the crowd, the feeling in the building is electric. It’s almost visible as you survey the sea of fans. When it’s over, you physically feel as if you just did a cardio session at the gym. You’re completely exhausted from being that excited.

And this is why I almost felt bad for the crowd last Sunday at WrestleMania XXXIV at the New Orleans Superdome. This year’s WrestleMania was seven hours long, including three pre-show matches. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and this year’s show may have finally hit that mark. By the time the main event hit between Roman Reigns and WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, it was nearly midnight. Maybe it’s because I’m 32 instead of 10, or because I’m the father of an 18-month old, but as the match was winding down, I was nearly falling asleep in my chair. Not because I wasn’t excited, but because I was simply too tired and the show dragged for too long.

Next year’s WrestleMania will be at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. I plan to go, along with a large contingent of my wrestling-loving friends, who like me, have never shed the bug after all these years. Today, WrestleMania is as exciting as it’s ever been. There’s a championship for nearly every match — the WWE now has two world championship titles. The women’s division is the strongest it’s ever been. It’s become a show for literally every member of the family to watch.

This is why I will be there next year, and continue to watch every year. With any luck, maybe that love will even be passed along to the next generation of my family. In an ever-changing world, it’s nice to have a couple constants in one’s life. Something reliable. Something you can always look forward to every year.

In my life, it’s WrestleMania.

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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